Synthetic drugs: available, dangerous

The Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau reports that synthetic drugs are a growing problem for area youth.

Studies show that one in ten high school seniors have used synthetic drugs such as Bath Salts and K2 in the last month. This trend is fueled by availability, low cost, website “how-to” guides, and a desire to avoid detection from standard drug tests.

The chemicals used in synthetic drugs are not natural; they mimic the effects of other drugs. Synthetic drugs are very potent and can cause intense adverse side effects, which has led to an increase in ER admissions.

Bath Salts

Bath Salts, a powerful chemically engineered drug, mimics the effects of LSD and methamphetamines. Bath Salts can be purchased on-line as plant feeder, insect repellent or stain remover in packages labeled “not for human consumption.”

Bath Salts are sold in a powder form in small foil packages. They are sniffed, smoked, injected, and taken orally by drug users.   The chemical in Bath Salts can cause severe paranoia, suicidal thoughts, agitation, violence, hallucinations, psychosis, increased heart rate and death.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers documented 6,138 calls in 2011 involving bath salts.

There is no standard formulation, so the potency of the drug is unknown to the user: Two packages of the same product can contain a drastic difference in potency.


K2 or Spice is a synthetic marijuana that is made by spraying artificial chemicals on plant material. The chemical in K2 attaches to the same receptors in the brain as marijuana, but with more intensity.

K2 is sold in small packages labeled “incense” or “potpourri.” It has a strong, sweet, clove smell and is typically smoked in the same manner as marijuana.

This drug can cause suicidal thoughts, loss of pain response, lack of judgment, agitation, seizures, spastic body movements, increased heart rate, paranoia, dysphoria, heart attack and death.

What To Look For

Parents should monitor credit card use and Internet searches, as synthetic drugs are typically purchased on-line.

Physical symptoms of drug use include restlessness, irritability, disorientation, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and seizures.

Withdrawal symptoms are internal unrest/agitation/anxiety, trembling, heart palpitations, panic attacks, headache, nausea/vomiting, and feelings of depression, hopelessness or desperation. If you notice any of these symptoms, take action.

What To Do 

Talk to your kids. Start by asking them what they know about K2 or Bath Salts. Give them the facts of synthetic drugs.

Seek professional help if you suspect drugs are being used. Call the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau for an appointment at 651-464-3685. Schedule a counseling session with a family therapist to explore family dynamics and get youth back on track.

In addition to family counseling, the Youth Service Bureau provides classes and support groups.

Chemical Awareness is a two-night class for youth and parents.

Teen Intervene is a one-on-one session for youth who are at risk for chemical abuse or dependency.

The Our Place teen recovery support group, for all types of addiction, is held every Tuesday at 6 p.m.

A parent support meeting is held every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

The Youth Service Bureau is located at 244 N. Lake Street in Forest Lake.

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